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Jason Paulk: Distinguished Honor

Sep 4, 2017 by

An Interview with Jason Paulk: Distinguished Honor

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

1) Jason, I understand that you have just been named American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) College and University Choirs National Chair.  When did you first hear about this honor and award?

I received communication from the National American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) Office that I had been appointed as the College and University Repertoire and Resources Chair on June 5, following their leadership conference.

2) How large an organization is this, and what will you be responsible for?

ACDA is quite large (well over 20,000), with members from all around the globe. I will represent our College and University membership on the executive board, assist with biannual conference planning, and work to foster communication and information flow to my constituents. Also, this is the exact charge from our R&R Handbook:

Repertoire and Resources Committee Coordinators and Chairs — appointed at the national, division, and state levels — serve conductors, teachers, composers, and constituencies who share similar interests. Chairs possess demonstrated expertise in a specific choral area and serve as leaders in the three primary efforts:

  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Commitment

The Repertoire and Resources Committees have a vital role in ACDA. R&R Committee coordinators and chairs as well as their members provide resources that promote excellence in all aspects of the performance of choral music.

3) How long have you been involved in music, first of all, and choral directing?

Since I can remember, I’ve been singing. My mom and dad and I would sing special music at church when I was very young—say 3 or 4. And I have been playing the piano since about 7 years old. However, the most important musical moment of my life occurred when I entered my 7th grade chorus room! Mr. Charles Nelson was an incredibly instrumental force in my life and taught me so much about musical fundamentals, leadership, and conducting. I was elected the “student director” of our chorus and I would often have the opportunity to lead rehearsals and sectionals. So, from 7th through 12th grade I had an incredible mentor in Mr. Nelson. By the time I was ready to begin my music education degree at Stetson University, I had spent hundreds of hours in front of an ensemble developing my conducting, rehearsal, and leadership skills. These early days of training were monumental for me.

4) Jason, you and I know that behind every successful man is some woman who deserves recognition and accolades. So, tell us about your other half who probably deserves a ton of recognition.

That is so true, Mike! I am incredibly blessed by my life and work with Kayla—my wife of 18 years! She is a pianist and vocal coach at Eastern New Mexico University  and we have the opportunity to regularly perform and teach together. I can’t imagine going to work every day and not being able to make music with her. It sounds a bit cliché, but I feel like our life is truly a symphony. We’re still in the “development” section—hopefully, inspiring a lot of our young protégés to follow their dreams and passions; our “recapitulation” should be fun, too, because we’ll be able to enjoy all of the fruits of our labors. I joke with our students who are teaching in the schools:  when they bring students back to campus, I call them my musical “grandchildren”! We just hope to remain involved and connected in our students’ lives. They are the reason we keep working so hard! They inspire us and keep us young.

5) One of your huge accomplishments is leading a group of students on tour in Europe performing in some of the most cherished cathedrals in the world.  Tell us about some of those endeavors.

Yes, one of my goals at ENMU has been to assist our students with seeing the musical world from a global perspective. We have had the opportunity to undertake four international tours in the last twelve years. Our first was China (we performed in Beijing and Tianjin), next we traveled to Central Europe (Prague, Vienna, Salzburg), then Italy (Venice, Florence, and Rome), and most recently Paris and London.

Our tour this summer, May 16-25, was absolutely incredible. While in France, we performed a feature concert in Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral (home of early vocal polyphony) and Chartres Cathedral; in England, we performed Evensong at St. Paul’s and another feature concert in Salisbury at St. Thomas and St. Edmonds church. You can hear a video link here if you’re interested:

This was in Chartres, I think, and we were exhausted after arriving in Europe the day before. Nonetheless, a lovely space to perform Steven Paulus’ Pilgrim’s Hymn.

6) What have I neglected to ask?

I think that covers it. If anyone is interested in a cd of our great ENMU choirs, we still have some of our most recent recordings available for $15. They can contact me at or 575-562-2798 and I’ll ship them one.

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